Obama made one of the “gutsiest calls” of any president in deciding to go ahead with the raid based on his confidence — but only circumstantial evidence — that bin Laden was indeed living in the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Brennan said. He said there were “absolutely” disagreements among Obama’s advisers about that course of action.
Brennan described tense moments in the White House Situation Room on Sunday as Obama and his top aides monitored the raid “in real time” and “the minutes passed like days.” When it became clear later that bin Laden was dead, he said, the president’s reaction was, “We got him.”
The death of the long-hunted al-Qaeda leader, who had eluded intensive U.S. efforts to capture or kill him after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks he ordered, triggered warnings Monday that his radical Islamist network or sympathizers could try to retaliate against Americans or U.S. interests.
It also served, U.S. officials said, to send a message to the extremist Taliban movement fighting to make a comeback in Afghanistan, where it had harbored bin Laden and al-Qaeda before being driven from power by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in November 2001. The message: Give up hope of defeating U.S. and NATO forces, renounce al-Qaeda and join the political process.
Bin Laden was killed early Monday in Pakistan (Sunday afternoon in Washington) in what officials described as a surgical raid by U.S. Special Operations Forces on his compound in Abbottabad, a garrison town 72 miles by road north of the capital, Islamabad. The raiding team reportedly was led by U.S. Navy SEALs.
Also killed in the raid were bin Laden’s son Khaled, two brothers who were harboring him and one of his wives, officials said.
In a rare Sunday night address from the East Room of the White House, President Obama said a small team of U.S. personnel attacked the compound, where bin Laden had been hiding since at least last summer. During a firefight, the U.S. team killed bin Laden, 54, and took custody of his body in what Obama called “the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaeda.”
At the White House early Monday afternoon, Obama said: “I think we can all agree this is a good day for America. Our country has kept its commitment to see that justice is done. The world is safer. It is a better place because of the death of Osama bin Laden.”